Upland farmers have called for a long-term environmental scheme with a simple administration system to replace CAP support measures, post Brexit.
The suggestions were among proposals put forward by more than 100 hill farmers within a consultation group called the Uplands Alliance.
As well as farmers, the group includes policymakers, conservationists and researchers, and was asked by Defra to help devise the post-Brexit Environmental Land Management Scheme (Elms).
Defra consulted the group on how Elms could be structured to provide public benefits, including biodiversity, carbon storage, clean water and heritage landscapes.
After nine meetings across England, farmers suggested these main aims:
- Long-term agreements of about 25 years to allow business planning and delivery of environmental benefits
- Sufficient payment rates to ensure business viability
- A non-prescriptive approach that allows farmers scope to deliver outcomes in the most practical way
- Flexibility to encompass changes in inputs or the environment while the agreement is in place
- Application forms that are simple enough for farmers to fill in without help
- Support through a network of local advisers
During the consultation meetings, farmers stressed how many public benefits they already provided and that they could do more given the right support.
What is the Uplands Alliance?
- A network of farmers, conservationists, policymakers and researchers all with a shared interest in creating a thriving uplands
- Part of the Creating a Brighter Future Project
- Backed by The Prince’s Countryside Fund
- Part-supported by Defra
- Hosted by the University of Cumbria and the Foundation for Common Land
They also reminded Defra that these benefits were delivered alongside producing high-quality food.
The Brexit issue was a key concern raised.
Farmers commented that they faced the loss of the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) as well as reduced incomes from poorer meat prices and declining sales.
Therefore, it was key for Elms to provide financial support that allowed hill farmers to stay in business, and enabled scope for investment.
In financial term, farmers suggested the overall level of funding for Elms needed to be about the same level as the existing BPS.
The Uplands Alliance continues to be actively engaged with Defra in developing Elms.